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Noteworthy Awards

Genetics researchers honored
for scientific contributions

Two College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty members recently received major awards in recognition of their work at the forefront of genetics research. Dr. Eugene Eisen was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and Dr. William R. Atchley won the Alexander von Humboldt Prize.

Eisen’s election as an AAAS fellow is one of the highest honors bestowed by the science community. Fellows are selected by their peers in recognition of outstanding accomplishments to advance scientific understanding in their fields and foster new applications of science for the good of society.

Eisen is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Animal Science and Genetics. He was recognized for his pioneering work in quantitative genetics, a field focused on understanding complex characteristics of plants and animals controlled by multiple genes. Eisen’s focus has been on the genetic and environmental aspects of reproduction and growth.

Among his most significant contributions to animal science has been the development of the laboratory mouse as a model organism for studying livestock genetics. Using the mouse as a model, Eisen has designed experimental methods that have helped animal breeders select for traits of economic importance, such as feed efficiency, litter size and fat/lean ratio.

Like Eisen, Atchley is an AAAS fellow and William Neal Reynolds Professor. Atchley, a faculty member with the departments of Genetics and Statistics, is among the world’s experts in both quantitative genetics and molecular evolution.

The award Atchley received from the Humboldt Foundation in Gemany recognizes scientists whose research has had profound impact on their fields of study. Scientists are nominated for the award by senior German scientists. Atchley was cited for his work in molecular evolution, in particular for research on mathematical modeling of the evolution and structure of a group of regulatory proteins called transcription factors. Transcription factors regulate cell division and control most aspects of cell development.

As winner of the Humboldt Prize, Atchley has been invited to spend 12 months conducting research at a German institution of his choice. While there, he will work with a group of mathematicians on integrating mathematics and molecular biology to better model protein structure and evolution.

Atchley quoteThe Humboldt Prize is but one in a long string for Atchley. In the past, he has received international fellowships and research prizes from the Alfred Sloan Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Fulbright Foundation.